TV review: Cheap Irish Houses

This blog first appeared as a TV review in the Andersonstown News

The South’s housing situation is a very touchy subject these days, with well over 8,000 people homeless. But never say RTÉ flinched away from a challenge. In the series CHEAP IRISH HOUSES (RTÉ ONE) Maggie Molloy travels throughout the South to locate houses that are cheap (and therefore in bad need of repair) for couples or individuals who then view the premises and give their thinking.

Last week Maggie told us “I’m Maggie Molloy, and I’m on a mission to shine a light on a hidden side of the Irish market.”  Her “passion”, she explained, was to match up customers with “old boxy bungalows,  forgotten farmhouses and keenly priced properties.”

“Today I’m heading west to meet Caroline and Karl”.  This couple are currently renting a house in Claremorris, Co Mayo. They explain to Maggie that they have a budget of €150,000, they’d like a shed which Caroline could use as a study, and they’d both need good broadband for their work.

With her sidekick engineer Kieran, Maggie checked out the first offering: a three-bedroom bungalow in Ballandine, Co Mayo, which was on offer for €89,000. Mind you, there was a big crack in the building. “Probably sewer-related” Kieran said, but it’d be reasonably straightforward to fix it. Although that was a straightforward that’d cost between €10,000 and €15,000. Caroline and Karl arrived and said “Mmm!” and “Oh yeah!” and “There’s a big crack here!”, but sure they were going to renew the sewers anyway.

“Are you ready to see the next one?” Maggie asked. “Yeah!” Caroline said. “I’m excited!”. (You may be right, Virginia – it could have been because she was on the telly, nothing to do with houses). 

The second house was a nineteenth century cottage near Kilkelly (there’s a song about that). The bad news was that the asking price was €135,000; the good news was that it came with seventeen acres.

“Omigod! I’m lovin’ it! Class!” Caroline trilled. Karl picked up an old Man United jersey from the floor. “It’ll have to go” he said firmly. “Into the fire”. But they found the place interesting, with lots of character, and talked about knocking down an inner wall for more space. Kieran the engineer said he’d be slow to knock a wall, which sounded like a serious warning. But the house did have good broadband, Maggie figured, pointing to a small black box on a telephone pole, which apparently is a sign of good broadband.

Then Kieran visits a couple who moved into an old cottage twenty-four years ago and built – wait for it – four extensions. The house cost them €19,000 back in 1987, and they’ve put €100,000 into it since. It looked odd-shaped but nice.

The final house Maggie showed Caroline and Karl was in Ballinlough, Co Roscommon, and it was going for €100,000.It was a two-storey house with a Sacred Heart picture still on the wall of one room.  It also had a leak coming from the upstairs loo.

Caroline and Karl figure the rooms were very small, although the house looked big from the outside. “And it’s very dry – apart from that leakage”.

So which did they fancy? Well, actually, the second house, with that seventeen acres of land. “I could visualize myself coming home to there” Karl said.

They agreed that it had been fun looking at the houses and that they’d have to er um mm-hmm, yes. Which translated as being “We enjoyed being on telly but we’re not going to buy any of those kips.” But then, that’s how nearly all of this kind of show ends: the potential customer enthuses about a particular property but stops some way short of actually putting down the money. But hey – it’s cheap TV, and as Maggie said “Lots of fun”.

Footnote: MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, he of the pony-tail, has objected strongly to properties in Roscommon being described as “cheap”.  ‘There’s nothing cheap about house prices in Roscommon” he tweeted.  “They’re just normal.” Take that, Maggie.

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